Holy Spirit Parish Pastoral Minister Kathy Myles (above right) and volunteer collaborator Christine Luplow (above left) load food into the back of the car of a family who received a turkey and all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Hundreds of families who may have gone without will instead enjoy a traditional meal this Thanksgiving thanks to the generosity, care and concern of parish communities across the diocese. Parishioners donated food, packed bags and boxes, and helped load and deliver food baskets this week to families in need.
At St. Agatha Parish in Gagetown nearly 60 families received turkeys and large chickens to celebrate the holiday. Volunteer Edna Kujowski said people are invited to come “shop” for food and pack their own boxes. Families receive a turkey or a chicken and thanks to donations from Sportsman Against Hunger, families may also get venison in their boxes.
The thumb-area parish offers a weekly food pantry and Edna said all who come in are very grateful.
“We have some people who may have lost their job, and they only come until they get back on their feet,” Edna said.
Kim Grant is the office administrator at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Auburn, where baskets of food were handed out to 30 local families.
“If you haven’t been exposed to something like this, you don’t really understand until you see the people,” Kim said. “The families receiving the baskets are so grateful.”
Along with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, the families at St. Gabriel’s were also given handmade hats and mittens, knitted by a group of ladies in the church. “It’s just pretty rewarding,” said Kim, who said she really appreciated the effort of all the volunteers who coordinate the process.
In Alma, Deacon Rick Warner, Director of Parish Life at Nativity of the Lord Parish, said they were overwhelmed by the gratitude of 20 families who received baskets of food for Thanksgiving. “The families were all really appreciative,” he said.
Though they don’t have a regular food pantry, Deacon Rick said the parish collects donations of food and supports food pantries in Gratiot County. Families contact the office of Human Services, a ministry started years ago at Mount St. Joseph church in St. Louis.
Holy Spirit Parish in Saginaw worked with Swan Valley High School to extend its outreach this Thanksgiving. Kathy Myles coordinates the food drive and give-away every year, and said a few years ago she began working with Christine Luplow, a parishioner who works in the school district. Christine operates a food and clothing pantry at the school.
“Swan Valley is in our parish boundaries,” Kathy said, and Christine has been working with families in need in the school district for a number of years.
This year, 19 families from both the parish and local community benefited from the collaboration. “There’s a great need out there,” said Kathy. “When you work together, you realize there are a lot of people in the same boat.”
“As the need increases, the ability to provide for people decreases,” said Christine, who hosts fundraisers with the students to help the less fortunate. She said with higher numbers of people in need, there are fewer with extra resources to give. Thanksgiving and Christmas, the food and clothing pantry and an adopt-a-family program will help some 30 families, about half of those through the collaboration with the church.
“When you do something like this, you realize there are a lot of people still living on the fringes,” said Kim Grant. “It’s hard to realize that what I have is a gift. Seeing these people and how grateful they are for everything is just really heartwarming.”